There will be more than 231,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in U.S. women in 2015, according to the American Cancer Society. With all the conflicting information and new recommendations out there, it can be hard to know the best practice to protect yourself when it comes to getting tested. Rockville Gynecology believes strongly in “The Power of Prevention”, so here’s the nitty gritty on what you need to know and how to best protect yourself.
The best tool to detect is mammography. A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast. Mammograms, along with a clinical breast exam, can be used to check for breast cancer routinely in women who have no signs or symptoms of the disease (including women with breast implants). This type of mammogram is called a screening mammogram. Early detection of breast cancer with screening mammography means that treatment can be started earlier in the course of the disease, possibly before it has spread. Studies show that this is especially imperative in women over the age of 50 to help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer.
There are, however, differences in mammograms, including both 2D and 3D version. The main difference is that 3D mammography is a type of digital mammography in which x-ray machines are used to take pictures of thin slices of the breast from different angles and computer software is used to reconstruct an image. 3D mammography uses very low dose x-rays, but, because it is generally performed at the same time as standard two-dimensional (2D) digital mammography, the radiation dose is usually slightly higher than that of standard mammography. Some facilities offer a "low-dose" 3D mammogram, which has the same amount of radiation exposure as the traditional 2D mammogram. In women younger than 50, where dense breast tissue is common, digital (3D) mammography is better at detecting breast tumors that may be hidden behind the dense breast tissue.
Am I a HIGH RISK or NORMAL RISK testing candidate?
There are numerous factors that impact a women's risk. Factors such as age and lifestyle play a role but you are considered a HIGH risk testing candidate if you have:
- A BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation (or a first-degree relative with a BRCA1/2 mutation)
- A strong family history of breast cancer, such as a mother and/or sister diagnosed at age 50 or younger
- A personal history of breast cancer
- Radiation treatment to the chest area before age 30
If you are a high risk candidate, developing a comprehensive plan for testing and follow up with your health care provider is important. In the event of a strong family history including any breast cancer in 1st or 2nd degree relatives diagnosed before the age of 50 or any 1st or 2nd degree relative with ovarian cancer at any age. , a BRACAnalysis ® test may be suggested. The BRACAnalysis ® test is a genetic test that detects the presence of a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. People with a mutation in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have risks of up to 87 percent for developing breast cancer and up to 44 percent for developing ovarian cancer by age 70. BRACAnalysis ® requires only a simple blood test or oral rinse sample to determine if a person has a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Knowing the results may help patients and their healthcare professionals either prevent or delay the onset of cancer or detect it at an earlier, more treatable stage. (Myriad)
Current screening guidelines for women who are NOT at higher risk are:
Women under 40: Clinical breast exams with a physician every 1-3 years and breast self- awareness.
Women 40 and above: should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so. Both ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) and ACS (American Cancer Society) recommend to begin annual mammography at age 40 along with annual clinical breast exams and continue breast self-awareness strategies.
What if I’m not a high risk patient, are there additional screening tools?
BREVAGenplus is an affordable, simple swab-based test that can help determine your risk of developing breast cancer. It is not used as a means to diagnose breast cancer like that of mammography. BREVAGenplus is available for African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic women age 35 years or older. BREVAGenplus combines "Clinical Risk Factors" and "Genetic Markers" to provide a personalized risk of developing breast cancer. With BREVAGenplus results in hand, your healthcare provider can develop an individualized Breast Cancer Risk Reduction and Screening Plan that outlines the most effective means and timing for monitoring your ongoing breast health. (Phenogen Sciences, Inc.) Rockville Gynecology is proud to be one of only two Montgomery County practices with this testing available for patients.
For additional information or questions about “POWER IN PREVENTION”, please visit www.RockvilleGynecology.com or call us directly at: 301-330-7007.